Movie Reviews: Beautiful Losers, Death Note
ANOTHER GAY SEQUEL: GAYS GONE WILD Previously on Another Gay Movie, Todd Stephens’ racist and pandering but almost canny response to American Pie, Nico thankfully lost his shit before almost getting it from Richard Hatch, Superman-ish Jarod gave in to Griff’s big nerd cock, and Andy sacrificed his ass cherry to two dicks at once. Flash-forward to the equally desperate Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild, which begins with a nightmare that doesn’t let up even after Nico (Jonah Blechman) wakes up. Virgins no more, the motley crew of fags (all played by different actors except for Blechman’s nelly queen) travel to Fort Lauderdale — think Fire Island as reimagined by Rainbow Brite — for a fucktastic spring break that ends with trite lessons learned about monogamy, ostracism and the sparring ways of the heart and hole. Having blown his satirical load on the first film, Stephens settles for grand-scale minstrelsy this time around, giving scant screen time to Lady Bunny and Whitney Houston — er, RuPaul — and way too much to Amanda Lepore’s tits and our community’s own Stepin Fetchit, Perez Hilton. Bigger, longer, and uncut — but only in the phallic sense — this mincing bad time is built entirely around shrill pop-culture references. But how queer am I that I knew its only funny line was taken wholesale from the great Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion? (Sunset 5) (Ed Gonzalez)
GO BEAUTIFUL LOSERS The ongoing trouble with docs about artists is that too few are very artfully made themselves, or else they fail to demonstrate any insight into their subjects’ impulses/goals/creative processes. Displaying artwork onscreen and interpreting it via talking-head sound bites has become the new dancing-about-architecture. Alleged gallery curator turned filmmaker Aaron Rose’s celebratory portrait of the early-’90s L.E.S. fringe artists who took part in his traveling exhibition — success stories like propaganda parodist Shepard Fairey, Thumbsucker director and visual artist Mike Mills and skateboarding prodigy turned photographer and painter Ed Templeton — makes all the aforementioned missteps. “Look how cool my dispossessed friends are!” the filmmaker seems to boast when fellow DIY-er Harmony Korine amusingly tells playground kids that his friend’s decapitated head was found where they’re playing. Rose superficially confronts the tenuously connected (or, in this case, thinly spread) group on the mainstream’s co-opting of their outsider sensibilities and the personal expressions that define their work. He, like the artists, seems uninterested in reflecting on society or culture writ large. Yet regardless of Rose’s intentions, his underachieving airiness is both entertaining and perfectly fitting for the slacker ennui of his clique’s rising years — when comic books were for nerds, skateboarding and graffiti for rebels, and none of these cats could’ve predicted the Pepsi and Marc Jacobs campaigns coming their way. (Nuart) (Aaron Hillis)
BABYLON A.D. Hardly the utter fiasco promised by its lengthy delay and no-press dumping on Labor Day weekend, Mathieu Kassovitz’s Babylon A.D. arrives shorn of 10 minutes of its European running time, and God knows what else cut before the film ever made it into any theater. In a vague post-apocalyptic future, mercenary Toorop (Vin Diesel) hides out in Russia until mobster Gorsky (Gérard Depardieu!) hires him to smuggle Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) into the U.S. Unsurprisingly, two factions led by cult actors — Lambert Wilson as Aurora's father on one side, and the ever-freaky Charlotte Rampling as mom, a.k.a. High Priestess, the CEO of the Neolite sect, on the other — attempt to kill them along every step of their journey. What's missing here are the seeds that would explain what Kassovitz increasingly seems to be angling for in the back half: a dystopian vision of a society in which organized religion is the exclusive pretext for global corporate dominance. Without whatever strident critique Kassovitz intends, it's a typical B action movie — the inevitable pseudo-warm bonding scenes deadly, the fights largely incoherent — with the occasional pleasing set-piece. If nothing else, it's nice to see an action movie that takes Europe, not America, as its grounding point. And depicting Russia as the world's future dominant power suddenly seems oddly prescient. (Citywide) (Vadim Rizov)
COLLEGE Film critics never come home stinking of their honest labor, but the nearest equivalent is reviewing something like College, which leaves its stain on one’s very humanity. Three high-school bros on a college visit — a dork, a gelatinous loudmouth and a faintly sympathetic straight man with anime-character hair — run afoul of a frat marshaled by a smug Van Wilder/that-Sugar-Ray-guy amalgam who subjects the boys to Sadean hazing. (He also has the one funny line: “What the fuck do you know about welfare reform?”) And so begins a morally numbing gantlet run through mechanical decadence, surpassing even the straight-to-DVD, soul-gangbanging American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile. “Queef,” “tossed salad,” Verne Troyer, and the ol’ fist-pump, open-mouth, tongue-in-cheek blowjob pantomime are utilized just as though they were jokes (what, kids — no “donkey punch”?). The overall mood is limply obligatory, as if everyone involved had been court-ordered to make a raunchfest party flick (director Deb Hagen only tunes in during her one tracking shot). One can’t imagine there’s an actual screenplay behind this — somebody seems to think Fatty is so good you can just let him riff. Nearly justifies traveling back in time to pre-emptively kill Edison, Muybridge, and the Lumière brothers. (Selected theaters) (Nick Pinkerton)
GO DEATH NOTE Feeling disenfranchised by the Japanese legal system’s failure to prosecute heinous criminals, ambitious law student Light (Tatsuya Fujiwara) starts enforcing his own brand of justice after he stumbles upon the Death Note, the ledger of a grim-reaper figure called Ryuk. The book’s power is simple: Whoever’s name you write in its pages dies. But when baddies start expiring from heart attacks with alarming frequency, the police, including Light’s father (Takeshi Kaga), launch a manhunt with the help of a mysterious super-detective known only as L (Kenichi Matsuyama). Adapted from Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s manga, director Shusuke Kaneko’s grungy thriller wastes time waxing philosophical about criminals’ rights before quickly deducing that no one in the theater cares about such thematic undercurrents. From there, Death Note is all twisty cat-and-mouse chess match, as L tries to uncover Light’s identity while Light alters his murder patterns and offs innocents to elude capture. Betraying its comic-book origins, Death Note doesn’t have characters so much as pungent types, and the dialogue fluctuates between pithy nihilism and juvenile stabs at hip, but the combatants’ mano-a-mano gamesmanship has such pulpy inventiveness that your inner fan-boy will most assuredly rejoice. See it now or wait until the inevitably horrible American remake. (ImaginAsian Center) (Tim Grierson)
DISASTER MOVIE In the Adam Sandler vehicle Little Nicky, Hitler spends eternity in Hell in a frilly smock getting pineapples shoved up his butt. Compared to anyone watching Disaster Movie, he got off light. Rushed into production with no better drape for its threadbare gags than Cloverfield — unless you count such proud upholders of the Irwin Allen tradition as Juno, Enchanted and High School Musical — this carpet-fouling mongrel of a movie no more deserves release than do anthrax spores. Visually an eyesore, comically a much-lower-seated pain, it’s the same as writer-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer’s other (fill in the blank) movie parodies, only somehow uglier and lazier. Ugliness and laziness can sometimes work to comedy’s advantage, but not here — not when the level of inspiration is someone answering a Get Smart shoe phone, only to smear his face with dog crap. Yes, there are nods to Hannah Montana and “I’m Fucking Matt Damon”; yes, Crista Flanagan does a spot-on Ellen Page — and yes, you can feel the dead air in the theater as joke after so-called joke falls splat on the pavement. The bastards couldn’t even find the energy to put an exclamation point after the title. Best text message sent from my screening (it wasn’t me, but I certainly sympathized): “I want to die.” (Citywide) (Jim Ridley)
GO I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND Septuagenarian Czech filmmaker Jirí Menzel’s latest boasts the same darkly sarcastic and lyrically absurdist trademarks that fellow Czech New Wavers Milos Forman and Vera Chytilová were known for in the ’60s. But I Served the King of England is hardly past its prime, and perhaps even timeless. After years in a Czech prison, grizzled everyman Jan (Oldrich Kaiser) is exiled to an abandoned German border town, where he reflects on the charmed naiveté of his youth. Flash back to the ’30s, when Jan is a young, towheaded pip-squeak — now played by a sublimely likable Ivan Barnev — whose fascination with the wealthy sparks pipe dreams of becoming a millionaire. From humble beginnings selling hot dogs and working as hotelier, Jan rises through the ranks over the decade — a climb that parallels his innocent sexual awakening. Then he falls for a Hitler-supporting mädchen (Julia Jentsch), and thus begins his unwitting collaboration with the monsters who overran his country. Though the film may be visually fanciful — as money rains down from the sky, a glowing halo of light shines behind a character’s noggin — any preconceived notion that this is yet another historical epic with some magic realism thrown in must be quashed. Menzel’s whimsy is the means, not the end; do away with the clever style and you’re still left with a rousing picaresque of life’s beautiful-sad ironies. (Royal; Playhouse 7; Town Center 5) (Aaron Hillis)
RED If Death Wish had begun with armed thugs killing Charles Bronson’s dog instead of his wife, and Bronson had spent the rest of the movie merely trying to obtain an apology, it might have looked something like this refreshingly low-key, mostly gore-free horror outing based on a novel by cult author Jack Ketchum and credited to two directors (Norwegian filmmaker Trygve Allister Diesen took over the reins from May auteur Lucky McKee after production problems temporarily closed down the shoot). In a broadly entertaining (if faintly hammy) performance, the barrel-chested Scotsman Brian Cox stars as Avery Ludlow, a courtly country gentleman who just wants to sit by the river and fish in peace — until a trio of nogoodnik rich kids decide it would be fun to rob him at gunpoint and give his mangy old hound a shotgun blast to the head. As Ludlow seeks that perpetual enigma — “justice” — Red traipses over some suitably ambiguous sociological ground concerning wealth, privilege and personal morality, without ever delving too deeply beneath the surface, The movie’s escalating series of tit-for-tat revenge ploys becomes a bit tedious even at 95 minutes, but Cox and a rich (if not always well-served) supporting cast that includes Tom Sizemore, Amanda Plummer, and Robert Englund keep it more than watchable throughout. (Music Hall) (Scott Foundas)
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